Monday, May 23rd, 2011
By Nancy Allen
Lake group casts positive message
  GRAND LAKE - Lake business operators facing another summer of blue-green algae blooms got a pep talk Saturday and lots of information.
The two biggest positives are the lake is open and the fish are safe to eat, said Milt Miller of the Lake Restoration Commission (LRC) to about 35 people at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
The LRC is a volunteer group working to restore the lake and raise funds for equipment and science to clean it. The LRC hosted the meeting primarily to give business operators information to answer challenging questions from tourists.
"Today is all about factual information, rallying, being ambassadors and advocates for the lake," Miller said. "We need your help and you need to help each other."
Miller said the state's first advisory of the season placed on the lake Thursday is no reason to panic. The public health advisory was called because blue-green algae has been detected and is producing the liver toxin microcystin. Signs posted at the three public beaches on the lake's east side warn against swimming, wading and swallowing the water and to avoid surface scum. Boating is allowed.
Miller told the crowd an alum treatment scheduled for June 1 will be the first major attempt to neutralize phosphorus, which feeds algae. The LRC is hopeful it will help eliminate the current algae bloom and reduce further blooms this summer.
Miller said the LRC is doing all it can to examine possible solutions, disseminate factual information and raise awareness and funds for the lake. The LRC has raised $659,235 for in-lake treatment, scientific testing and analysis, he said.
"You have to trust our team," Miller said.
Jason Dorsten, of Bella's Italian Grille, Celina, asked what the LRC could do to eliminate the public's perception that the lake is closed.
"We have many people we see every day, and the general consensus now is the lake is shut down," Dorsten said.
Miller said the LRC plans to produce more frequent news releases and place information at businesses.
"We need to emphasize the positive, proactive things in place or that will be put in place to help this lake," Miller said.
Local Realtor Deb Borns asked what is being done to ensure a dedicated funding source to continue to pay for in-lake science and equipment to restore the lake. It's unrealistic to expect to raise $600,000 from the community each year, she said.
Miller said state Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and U.S. Congressman Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, are working on a document that would form a legal entity to apply for grant funds and create a "lake czar."
"We're all just volunteers," Miller said of the LRC. "We need a lake czar to focus on this 10 hours a day, seven days a week ... we need that entity in place."
Miller said the state is implementing components of the LRC's master plan, which includes short- and long-term solutions to the water quality problem.
Brochures listing seven priority areas in the master plan will be distributed to local businesses.
The priorities are: using alum immediately to reduce phosphorous; dredging nutrient-rich sediment; providing an alternative use for manure produced in the watershed; installing treatment trains on tributaries; using aeration devices to infuse oxygen into the lake water to disrupt algae formation; creating wetlands to help filter nutrients and sediment; and rough fish removal.
Last week's advisory came almost a full month earlier than the first one in 2010. Excessive rainfall in recent weeks has washed a large amount of phosphorous into the lake from farmland in the 58,000-acre watershed.
Samples drawn last week from the three public beaches produced toxin readings from 20 to 24 parts per billion. This is just above the World Health Organization's standard of 20 ppb for recreational safety exposure, but the state is no longer using those standards. New state standards with benchmark toxin levels should be released soon.
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